An international conference on Women and Islamic Awakening has entered its second and final day in the Iranian capital, Tehran.
Muslim women from about 80 countries have come together to discuss the role of Muslim women in the popular revolutions against autocratic rulers in the Middle East and North Africa.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Yvonne Ridley, a senior Muslim journalist from Britain attending the International Conference on Women and Islamic Awakening in Tehran. What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Yvonne, tell us more about what you have been experiencing in these two days.
Salam, it has been an incredible two-days, a roller coaster of emotions. We had Dr. Ahmadinejad making a sensational speech, very pro-women. Any Western feminist would have been knocked out by what he had to say.
He was so promoting women in their strength and of course said that without them, the Islamic Awakening would just not have happened and you could just see all the women feeling really empowered minute by minute as his speech went on.
On the emotional side, I was almost broke to tears with one Egyptian mother who reminded us of those who had paid the ultimate price for freedom and she carried a picture of her son with her. He was 22 years old when he was cut down in the conflict to get Liberation [Square] in Egypt and she was in tears and she wanted everyone to know about what her son had done for his country, for his people. And there were other women with great tales of courage and bravery.
So a whole roller coaster of emotions but the big message has been that there would never have been an Arab Spring and an Islamic Awakening without the women.
Yvonne, now that you mention Arab Spring and the word ‘Arab Spring’, basically this whole conference and the three previous ones have been focusing on referring to this movement as an Islamic Movement and I talked to a number of people yesterday and they all agreed that this should be called an Islamic Awakening because you see now what the people are asking for and the result of the elections also shows what people are asking is going back to their own roots, their own religion and they no longer want those secular governments. So do you agree with that?
Absolutely, when the revolution in Tunisia began, people were saying it is a secular movement; it is the revolution of Twitter and Facebook.
But actually those kids who were involved in fighting again for freedom had no idea what Islam meant because Ben Ali, the dictator who was in charge at the time, had ripped the Hijabs off the heads of women; he had men locked up for doing nothing more than going to the mosque to pray 5 times a day.
Now those young people are rediscovering their true Islam, their pure Islam and this is happening in Egypt, a country I have regularly visited and every time I go back, I see more and more Hijabs, more women embracing the faith that they were born into, a faith that they were not allowed to practice under the dictator Mubarak.
And again, in Libya, I was there just a few weeks ago and people are rediscovering their faith. It is an Islamic Awakening without a doubt.